Before we start getting more in depth on Fibre Channel, let me give you some basic general SAN terminology.
stands for Logical Unit Number. The LUN represents a logical disk that
will be presented to a host. The client connects to its LUN and uses it
as if it was a local hard drive. LUNs are specific to our SAN, not our
The client is known as the initiator and the storage system is known as the target.
The Fibre Channel Protocol
the Fibre Channel Protocol, is used to send the SCSI commands over the
Fibre Channel network. If your client had a local hard drive, it would
send SCSI commands to that local hard drive. With SAN, it’s sending the
SCSI commands, but over a network now.
Fibre Channel is Lossless
Channel is a very stable and reliable protocol which is one of the main
reasons it remains very popular with old school storage engineers.
networks are lossy. With TCP, the sender sends traffic to the receiver,
and the receiver will periodically send acknowledgements back. If a
sender doesn’t get an acknowledgement back, then it knows that the
traffic was lost in transit and it will resend the traffic.
UDP is best effort, without acknowledgements. It’s up to the higher application layers to deal with any lost traffic.
Channel is lossless, unlike TCP and UDP. The buffer-to-buffer credits
flow control mechanism is built into the protocol to ensure frames are
Fibre Channel Speeds
Channel currently supports bandwidths of 2, 4, 6, 8 and 16 Gbps. Not all
hardware supports the higher speeds, so the speed you’ll get depends on
the equipment you’ve got deployed.
Fibre Channel Networking
Channel is different than Ethernet at all layers of the OSI stack,
including the physical level, so it requires dedicated adapters, cables
and switches. You can’t use an Ethernet network card or an Ethernet
switch for Fibre Channel. This is different than iSCSI, FCoE and our NAS
protocols which do run over Ethernet.
(FCoE is a special
case in that it uses an Ethernet network but still runs the Fibre
Channel protocol which requires lossless traffic, so it can’t use
standard Ethernet adaptors and switches.
the local area network which connects it to its client, the server uses
standard Ethernet NIC (Network Interface Card) ports. Typically we will
use two ports for redundancy, either on the same or separate physical
For the storage area network which connects it to its storage, the server has standard Fibre Channel HBA (Host Bus Adapter) ports. An HBA is the Fibre Channel equivalent of an Ethernet NIC. Again we will typically use two for redundancy.
Network Addressing – The WWN
Fibre Channel uses World Wide Names, WWNs,
for its addressing. Both initiators and targets are assigned WWNs. The
WWNs are 8 byte addresses that are made up of 16 hexadecimal characters.
Here’s an example:
There are two types of WWN address: The WWNN and the WWPN. They both use the same format and look the same.
The WWNN World Wide Node Name
The World Wide Node Name (WWNN)
is assigned to a host in the storage network. The WWNN signifies that
individual host. The same WWNN can identify multiple network interfaces
of a single network node. A host could have multiple HBAs, or multiple
ports in an HBA.
You might sometimes see the WWNN also
being referenced as the NWWN, the Node World Wide Name. WWNN and NWWN
are exactly the same thing, just two ways of saying it.
The WWPN World Wide Port Name
Our hosts also have World Wide Port Names, WWPNs.
A different WWPN is assigned to every individual port on a node. If we
had a multi-port HBA in the same host, each port on that HBA would have a
different WWPN. WWPNs are the equivalent of MAC addresses in Ethernet.
The WWPN is burned in by the manufacturer of that HBA, and it’s
guaranteed to be globally unique.
Just like WWNNs can also be known as NWWNs, WWPNs are also sometimes known as PWWNs. Again it means the same thing.
the initiator (the client) and the target (the storage system) are
assigned WWNNs and WWPNs on their Fibre Channel interfaces to enable
them to communicate with each other.
We’re primarily concerned with the WWPNs, not the WWNN, when we’re configuring Fibre Channel networks.
WWPN is a big, long hexadecimal address. It isn’t obvious which system
it’s on if we’re looking at the output of troubleshooting commands, and
it’s easy to make a typo when we’re entering our configuration.
can be configured for the WWPNs to make configuration and
troubleshooting easier. For example, we could create an alias named
EXCHANGE-SERVER-PORT-1. Now when we’re configuring settings, we can
specify the alias, rather than the WWPN. This is more convenient and
makes it less likely that we’re going to put in any typos. Also, the
Alias will be shown in any troubleshooting output which makes it
immediately obvious which system we’re looking at.
Fibre Channel you’re going to need to reference WWPNs in both the Fibre
Channel switch and the storage system configuration. Aliases can be used
on both of them.